Last Tuesday, a video ad for the upcoming Beauty and the Beast hit the internet. Disney has been dipping into their past, adapting their famous fairy tales as live-action films. Those who grew up on The Jungle Book, Cinderella, and the like are being titillated by slightly more grown-up versions of what they remember. Why reinvent the wheel when you can use tried-and-true concepts, make a few adjustments, and improve on what you already have?
That’s exactly what Disney seems to have done with Beauty. The more I see of what they’ve done, the more impressed I am. Not only did they hire an amazing cast, but they have tweaked the story in ways that has the potential to make this a top-notch movie in every way. Watch the video below, and scroll down further to see my commentary.
The first thing that impresses me is the transformation of Belle’s father in this iteration of the story. This is not the goofy Maurice from the animated version. We hear an example of his fatherly, if trepidacious, wisdom near the very beginning of the trailer:
My dear Belle, you are so ahead of your time. This is a small village. And it’s small-minded as well. But small also means safe.
As I implied in my review of the animated version, Belle isn’t interested in safety if it means being stuck in provincialism.
She wants “adventure in the great wide somewhere,” but has no idea what it would cost her. Sometimes the things which seem to be taking us away from our dreams are a catalyst to lead us to a serendipitous fulfillment of them. Although the fulfillment never looks quite like the dream.
As the trailer shows, Belle’s adventure will not be safe, but will lead her through peril into experiences beyond what the small-minded villagers could ever fathom. Her spirit of helpfulness is already being developed, as is shown in the clip of her helping a young girl learn to read. We do not see this type of interaction with the villagers in the animated version, and I hope there is more of this.
There is also more feistiness in this Belle than we saw in the 1991 version. The original Beauty promises the Beast she will stay in the castle forever, escaping only when she reaches the breaking point due to the Beast’s terrorizing behavior. Emma Watson’s Belle promises her father she will try to escape. Why the difference? And why is Maurice accused of being a thief? It will be interesting to see exactly how this plays out in the film.
Another difference which comes out in the trailer is that Belle is apparently let in on the secret behind the rose. I don’t think she was ever given that inside information in the original Disney version. Why this particular twist? (I love Ian McKellen’s line as Cogsworth: “…and we become antiques.”)
In the scene after the wolf attack, we see how the storytellers will plug up one of the plot holes in the animated version. My family has often wondered out loud how in the world Belle gets the huge Beast on the horse to bring him home. The trailer shows the Beast conscious, and Belle tells her she needs his help—he has to stand.
The music at the end of the trailer is the new version of the title song sung by Ariana Grande and and John Legend. To tell the truth, I think I like the original version by Céline Dion and Peabo Bryson better, but this new one is certainly worthy. I can hardly wait to see this all put together!
Beauty and the Beast comes to theaters March 17. Tickets are already on sale at various outlets.